Imagine being an orca adapted to swim up to 150 miles in the open ocean each day—but instead, humans keep you imprisoned in a tiny tank, where stress and frustration leave you with almost nothing to do but peel paint chips off the walls. Then suppose you’re among a group of dolphins (orcas are dolphins, too, by the way) and so frustrated by your existence at SeaWorld that you take out your anger by ganging up on one of your own kind. Dolphins at SeaWorld don’t have to imagine it—they’re living it every day.
In June 2022, an orca named Malia—who had debris, including paint chips, stuck in her teeth and to the roof of her mouth—bit a trainer’s arm at SeaWorld Orlando, causing several fractures to their forearm and wrist, requiring surgery. Then, later in 2022, a group of stressed dolphins attacked another dolphin—Rascal—at the same facility. The park failed to protect the dolphin, who’d been attacked for days, until he sustained injuries.
Later, PETA learned that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) slapped SeaWorld with a citation for the debris discovered in Malia’s mouth and some ingested sand found in a gastric sample taken from Rascal in December 2022.
Imprisoned in SeaWorld Tanks Chewing on Paint Chips
It’s well known that orcas peel paint off tank walls at SeaWorld, a potentially harmful behavior. The USDA has cited the company in the past for the tanks’ peeling paint.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports that in Malia’s case, a trainer “retrieved a pressurized pump spray bottle, filled with water and fluoride to rinse the roof of Malia’s mouth to help dislodge the paint chip.” In the process, the orca must have been tickled and “gently closed her mouth with the victim’s right arm inside but immediately opened her mouth again once she felt resistance. The victim was immediately treated for the injury and transported to Orlando Medical Center where they underwent surgery to repair the multiple fractures to the right forearm and wrist.”
Orcas at SeaWorld have suffered from dental damage caused by chewing on the metal bars and concrete sides of their tanks, revealing the traumatic effects of their imprisonment and showing one reason why they shouldn’t be confined.
While the Miami Seaquarium is now working toward sending Lolita the orca back to her native waters, SeaWorld trainers are fracturing their arms trying to clean paint chips out of orcas’ mouths.
Confined Dolphins at SeaWorld Attack One of Their Own
According to a report from the USDA, a group of dolphins repeatedly attacked a fellow dolphin, Rascal, for days in October 2022, until he lay on his side bleeding. The agency cited SeaWorld over its failure to get Rascal out of harm’s way in a timely manner. SeaWorld knew of recent attacks so severe that he had rake marks from the teeth of other dolphins (injuries that, if deep enough, can leave scars). These marks covered 30% of his body, including his face, causing him to tremble and bleed.
Mere days after SeaWorld reportedly separated Rascal from his attackers, a visitor witnessed another attack and posted it to TikTok.
The incidents that triggered SeaWorld’s recent citation offer a glimpse into the unnatural and harmful conditions humans force animals to endure at the parks. Marine mammal experts suggest the animals’ stress and deep frustration are bound to keep surfacing, leading to more such harmful incidents.
Help Prevent Animals From Chewing Paint Chips and Attacking Each Other at SeaWorld
Never go to SeaWorld or any other marine park that features animals, and take action to help marine mammals currently stuck in this cruel cycle of exploitation: